Today, Croatia takes stock of its reconstruction efforts to recover from the damages following the devastating earthquakes of March and December 2020 in Zagreb, Petrinja and the Sisak Moslavina county.
This recovery was supported by a total of €1 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF), which was granted in two tranches in 2020 and 2021.
The earthquakes caused damage to around 26,000 buildings. Thanks to the EU support, Croatia could invest in the rapid reconstruction of infrastructure and schools, universities, hospitals, and cultural heritage sites. For example, the EUSF funded the reconstruction of the Zagreb Cathedral, the Merkur Clinical and Sisters of Charity hospitals, several faculties at the University of Zagreb, the Dr Ivan Merz primary school in Zagreb and the container settlements that were set up in the Sisak Moslavina county to provide temporary housing.
The coordination of the reconstruction and recovery efforts after the earthquakes and the implementation of the funding were extremely challenging. 1,330 contracts were signed, involving 609 beneficiaries and 304 construction companies. A total of 10,500 construction workers were engaged in the reconstruction.
The EUSF is the main EU instrument for post-disaster recovery and an expression of EU solidarity. It supports Member States and accession countries by offering a financial contribution after severe natural disasters and, since 2020, major health emergencies.
In the case of natural disasters, the funding can be used for essential emergency and recovery operations by public authorities, such as the repair of damaged infrastructure, protection for the population, securing preventive infrastructure and protection of cultural heritage, as well as clean-up operations.
Since April 2020, at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the scope of the EUSF was extended to cover major public health emergencies.
In December 2020, the Commission granted €684 million of EUSF assistance to Croatia following the devastating earthquake that hit Zagreb and its surroundings in March 2020. A second series of earthquakes hit the cities of Petrinja, Karlovac and Sisak Moslavina as from the end of 2020. In December 2021, the Commission allocated to Croatia a further €319 million of EUSF assistance.
Between 2002 and the end of 2022, the EUSF mobilised over €8.2 billion for interventions in 127 disaster events (107 natural disasters and 20 health emergencies) in 24 Member States, the UK (then a Member State) and 3 accession countries (Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia).
The EUSF and the Emergency Aid Reserve help tackle major natural disasters or public health crises inside and outside the EU, respectively, as part of the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve (SEAR). Taking into account the increasing needs and limited resources of the EUSF, the Commission proposed in June 2023, in the context of the MFF mid-term revision 2023, a €2.5 billion increase of SEAR to reinforce the Union’s capacity to address crises and emergency situations.